President Obama unveils sweeping emissions reduction plan

Earlier today, President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan, a set of rules for states that, taken together, will lead to a reduction in fossil fuel emissions from power plants of 32 percent compared to their 2005 level by the year 2030.

The rules are a step beyond the original version of the plan, which was put forward last year and then revised. They set individual carbon reduction goals for each state, which can be achieved through a variety of options that include increased renewables, greater efficiency or simply building fewer coal-fired plants.

As the Washington Post notes, many of these reductions are already taking place; the Clean Power Plan simply builds on them and moves them along faster. While going further than originally proposed, the plan is also more flexible, taking criticisms of the original proposal into account. From the Post:

Many states will face tougher requirements for lowering greenhouse-gas emissions under the revised plan. But state governments also will be given more time to meet their targets and considerably more flexibility in how they achieve their pollution-cutting goals, according to two senior officials knowledgeable about the rule. For the first time, the officials said, the plan also includes a “reliability safety valve” that can buy states additional time if needed to avoid disruptions in the power supply.

The program also includes a provision that will incentivize earlier deployment of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, as opposed to natural gas, avoiding an “early rush to gas,” as the administration calls it.

Global climate change, via Creative Commons

Global climate change, via Creative Commons

The program makes good on the administration’s pledge to the United Nations to curb emissions by between 26 and 28 percent under 2005 levels by 2025, with emissions projected to be lowered 27 percent by the year 2020.

The moves available to President Obama to curb greenhouse gas emissions are, for all intents and purposes, limited to the EPA given the state of gridlock in Congress, which couldn’t pass cap-and-trade — to say nothing of a carbon tax — during his first two years with majorities in both houses.

In any case, this move marks the biggest step taken by the American government to push back against climate change. To be clear, it probably isn’t enough to save Miami, but it’s a lot — progress on which another president committed to acting on climate could build.

Of course, that would require a president committed to acting on climate. Welp, nevermind.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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